Showing posts with label vampire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vampire. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 5. Plays Well With Others

I touched briefly on this with my posts on Building a Darklord, Castle Amber, and Horror Adventures, but one of the key strengths of  Ravenloft has always been its mutability.  It can go anywhere, it be what you need it to be and while some might bemoan its pastiche of horror literature stereotypes, that same familiarity allows it to work in a lot of ways with other books and games.

While I am perfectly happy, indeed happier now, that Ravenloft is more amorphous and less of a "world" there are plenty of sources out there if you want to expand it beyond what lives in between the book covers now to a larger world.

Here are some resources I am planning on using to make my Ravenloft campaign (whenever I can get that going!) a little more personalized.

Ravenloft and Cthulhu

While this seems to be a "no-brainer" just slapping Cthulhu into a game almost never works.  Sure there are some great monsters here, but the real value-add here are the sections on running a cosmic horror game.  This is a great overall resource, and a fantastic one when running an adventure in Bluetspur.

Ravenloft and Fantasy Horror

I mentioned already the utility that Pathfinder's Horror Adventures provides in setting up some details for a Dark Fantasy Horror game.  The 3.x d20 system in Pathfinder is similar enough to the 5e one in Ravenloft to provide plenty of ideas with a minimum of conversion needed.   If you must have them, the Fear, Sanity, and Corruption rules can be ported over to 5e Ravenloft.  Even some of the Feats can be used (but used sparingly).  Spells and Magic items can be ported over almost as is really. 

In fact, I have found it so useful in the last few days that I have moved it from my "Pathfinder" shelf to my "Horror" shelf.

BlackRose

Going back to some of the earliest posts on this blog are my ideas for a BlackRose game.  Now with the new 5e Blue Rose out, it is practically begging me to use it for this.  For me, the ideas behind BlackRose have changed a bit.  I think a Domain that is similar to Aldea, but maybe more of one of sadness.  Not Aldea, but using a lot of the ideas and rules.  Something more akin to my Kingdom of Rain.  Which has one foot planted squarely in Blue Rose and another in a melancholic sort of Folk Horror that would find a home in Ravenloft.  I ran an adventure under the title "Kingdom of Rain" a while back. It was a little Aldea, a little bit Innsmouth, and a little bit Alton, Illinois.  There are some solid Fey elements to it as well; I introduced my River Hags here.  A version of Kingdom of Rain is set to be published under the name "Witching Weather," so watch this space for more on that.

Ravenloft and the Runewild


Speaking of fey lands, the Runewild from Sneak Attack Press also provides a bit of a wilder fey world with tinges of Horror and Dark Fantasy.  If you ever wanted to expand on the Domain of Tepset then this is a fantastic source.  Again, as with the Horror Adventures and Blue Rose, there is material here that can be dropped into Ravenloft "as is" with very little modification.  The Runewild also help build up that "dream-like feeling" I like to use in Ravenloft before hitting characters with the Nightmares.

My Kingdom of Rain lives in the intersection of the triquetra-shaped Venn diagram of Ravenloft, Blue Rose, and Runewild.  I can also use this for expanding my new Domain with The Snow Queen as the Darklord.  Though do I REALLY want my Kingdom of Rain converted to a Dark Domain?  I'll have to suss that one out as I go through my books here.

Ravenloft and Ravenloft


Sounds odd, but most of the grief the new book is getting online is "it's not like the old Ravenloft." Ok, fine. If you must, make it like it.   Most of the Ravenloft books are fluff anyway.  Grab what you want from any of the old books and reuse it.  Want Viktor back instead of Viktra? Ok, do that.  I might create a Domain where they are both there and there is an intense rivalry between them.  I am thinking Father and Daughter.  Their creations of course are caught in this battle.  Rival evil scientists. Using their creations to get at the other.  Both wanting to capture their opponents' creations to learn their secrets. Viktor is intensely jealous of his daughter fearing her creation Else is superior, all the wile claiming she knows nothing that he did not teach her.  Viktra hates her father for never sharing his work and finds Adam to be an abomination.  

The more I type this, the more I like it.  Go all Hammer Horror for Viktor and Giallo horror for Viktra.  Set them on different sides of Lamordia where their minions search the countryside for parts for their experiments and to hopefully capture one of the more successful ones of their rival Darklords. 

It's one part Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), one part Lady Frankenstein (1971), and one part War of the Gargantuas (1966).  All set in Fantasy Gothic Horror Switzerland. Sprinkle in a little bit of Reanimator and I am good to go. 

Horror is my favorite seasoning for most games.  Ravenloft lets me do this with everything.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 2b. Do You Wanna Build a Darklord?

Darlessa, the Vampire Queen
Wait.  Shouldn't this be Part 4?  Yes, but everything I am talking about here deals perfectly with the material I reviewed in Part 2 and very little of Part 3.  

One of the shifts in design goals of the new Ravenloft book is a move to focus more on the Darklords you can create for your own game. 

While several updated and new Darklords and Domains are detailed, the fun comes creating your own, and in particular, one that has meaning for your players and characters.   Chapter 2 covers this well and comes before Chapter 3 on the existing Darklords and Domains to get the readers and potential DMs to think about what the domains mean to them.

So let's take the advice of the book and create a new Darklord and Domain.  Now my first horror game likely happened as soon as I got my Moldvay Basic set if not before.  I dig horror. A lot. So I have at least 40+ years' worth of horror gaming to draw on.  And while such D&D campaigns I have run in the past, The Shadow War, Ogre Battle, or even The Dragon and the Phoenix had horror elements to them, but none really rose up to the levels of Ravenloft worth horror, though the Shadow War back in 1991 came close and even featured some Ravenloft game sessions.  My own Ravenloft campaign was essentially a tour of the then Domains ala "The Fantastic Journey" only horror and not sci-fi.  I imprinted on a lot of weird shit as a kid. While a lot of fun, it does not give much in the way of "new" material.  Sure there is a lot of old material I could bring back, but that's not what I want to do here now. 

So let's start with Chapter 2 and build a Domain. And do that, we need a Darklord.

Who is My Darklord?

It's going to be a vampire. Why? I like Vampires. I played a cleric as my first class ever so I could be like Van Helsing. My goal what to fight vampires and undead.  Let me put a pin in that idea for a moment. 

I thought about maybe using my cavalier that I ran through Ravenloft as a player or one of my favorite NPCs I used as a reoccurring character that would torment the players because while she was a vampire she was not overtly evil. But my cavalier died in the Shadow War and the NPC, well she ended up the focus of a ritual to bring a vampire back to life.  She is human now, and given the history of that character, I kinda want to keep it that way. 

There is only one NPC that could really be my Darklord.  That is Darlessa the Vampire Queen.

Spend any time here and you will know about my history obsession with the various Vampire Queens.  I love them.  Blame Hammer Horror, blame 60's and 70's Giallo, but they are so great.  Darlessa comes to me via Small Niche Games and the Valnwall products where she is credited with killing St. Johan, my very first Cleric character. So the origin here is still Basic, B/X style at that, D&D.   Truthfully there is a multitude of reasons why this works for me, so I am not going to bore you with the justification and the details and just state "it works."  

So let's start with Darklord Creation.  Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft says:

A Darklord’s memories, desires, mistakes, and evil deeds shape the domain’s twisted lands, inhabitants, and features. You need not create these in a vacuum, though. When creating your own Darklord, consider the relationship that will define their evil in your adventures: their conflict with your players’ characters.

- Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, p. 39

Well...I don't have any players, not just yet.  You all are my players now. The adventures you have had are reading this blog. 

One this is clear off the bat.  The Darklord is evil.  Darlessa might be a lot of things, but a misunderstood villain is not one of them.  This notion of evil and evil deeds is repeated many times in this section. So much for Ravenloft not having good vs. evil. 

What are Darlessa's evil deeds? She kills people. Well, lots of vampires do that. She used her evil and power and privilege to command others.  She tolerated no rivals. She kidnapped the granddaughter of Johan Werper and threatened to kill her. She caused Johan's death instead and this was her last act that damned her.  Let's consult this questionnaire from VRGtR, answers in parentheses:

  • Where was the Darklord before the Mists took them?  (In the swamp outside her castle)
  • Who was the Darklord’s family? (none, she had killed them all centuries ago)
  • How was the Darklord’s family oppressed, oppressive, or both? (domineering over her, killing them might have done the world some good)
  • What was the Darklord’s childhood like?  (oppressive. She was bullied and bullied in return)
  • Whom did the Darklord care about? (Only herself mostly, BUT I am willing to work on this)
  • Who cared about the Darklord? (Maybe a sister?  I will think about this.)
  • Who hurt the Darklord? (everyone, but usually only once)
  • Whose respect or love did the Darklord crave? (only those who had more power than her)
  • What did the Darklord value? (power)

So Darlessa is a vampire, not because she craves lives and blood, but because she craves power. Her desire to control everyone and everything around her was her undoing as a vampire and led her to become a Darklord.  But lots of vampires never become Darklords.  She has to be something else.

In "Corrupt Beyond Redemption" on page 40 we are given some ideas of what makes a Darklord more than your average villain.  The Darklord needs to commit Evil Acts, or "The Dark Powers consider an act to be evil if it is intentional, unnecessary, and successful, and most importantly if it causes significant harm."  Those Harmed have to be significant.  In this case, it was my first character trying to protect my first AD&D 2nd Ed character.  Maybe not significant to you but for me it has gravitas.  And finally, the act has to be Irredeemable.  Darlessa was about to drain the life out of a seven-year-old girl just to get to her parents and grandfather. She managed to cause the death of the grandfather and scar the granddaughter so much she was terrified of the dark.  (Role-Playing tip. Try playing an AD&D character who you have decided is afraid of the dark. All dark, all the time.)

Background

Darlessa always fancied herself as a Queen, which of course is impossible because she is from Glantri. She might have been an upstart Princess if fate had been kinder to her, but instead, the only magic she learned was witchcraft, a "lesser" form of magic to the Glantri ruling class.  Rejected by those she considered her peers and laughed at by those she considered underlings it was no surprise that she turned to evil.  She married a minor noble and soon had him murdered.  She moved up in social status by marrying one of the lesser Princes.  She could not kill him as easily so she had him locked away due to madness, which she of course caused.  She was always vying for more and more power, a better position in the social hierarchy. While she felt she was in control of her situation and had everyone else figured out in truth all the nobility saw through her ruse and were just toying with her.  When discovered this and was laughed out of court she sought out her demon to turn her into a vampire. But even then she chaffed under this yoke and sought to kill her new master. 

She managed to escape and had planned her glorious revenge on all who had mocked her, only to discover that everyone from the court was dead.  Not of some nefarious or evil plan, but of the natural progress of time.  She had taken decades to break free and now it was too late. All that remained were the offspring of those who had rejected her.  She reinvented herself as a noble and re-entered court, this time none knew her.  She would have been successful too had it not been for the cleric Johan.  Clerics had been banned in her day in Glantri, but Johan was distantly related to a noble and had proved a wise council on ecclesiastic and occult matters.  He quickly spotted Darlessa for what she was and thus began 40 years of open conflict between the two.  

Until the night she got what she had desired.  She was going to kill Johan and his granddaughter. Johan had taken his granddaughter to see the court. Her chance had come, everyone who had stood against her were all in one place. She had killed every servant in the castle to get to the girl and had taken her back to her own keep.  Johan followed. The ancient enemies fought and both died by the flaming holy oil.  Only the young granddaughter survived.  Johan was canonized and became St. Johan.  

Darlessa awoke to find herself in a finely appointed castle much like that of the court.  She was surrounded by servants and nobles, and all addressed her as Queen.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels
The Domain

The Domain of Darlessa is a small island, or at least that is what it seems to be. There is the island and it is surrounded by water, but they are on a lake and the island is in that lake.  Beyond are only mists.  Darlessa is the Queen, but she has no subjects. She has servants, the very ones she had killed to get to Johan, but they are mindless, repeating the same tasks every day, day in day out.  Members of her court have the exact same conversations over and over again.  Games of chess or cards always result in the same outcomes no matter how many times they are played. Everyone in the castle adores her and they tell her this, often. Every day. The exact same way.  She has tried to feed on her servants, but they provide her with no life and they are returned the very next day.  She has gone on berserk killing sprees, killing every member of her court, and they return the next day acting as they always have.

The night she was rejected by society plays over and over again as it did in her mind when she was subservient to her demon lord. Now it plays out for real and she holds the place of power and honor. Her every desire has been given to her. And she is tortured by it all. 

This Domain has treated Darlessa everything she ever wanted and she is sickened by it all.  The fawning courtiers, the sycophants, the hangers-on. They all disgust her and there is no release.  The sun remains behind dense clouds and is never bright enough to kill her.  She thirsts constantly, but no one inside her domain can satisfy her.  Even her small cadre of warlocks (of the Undead) who do her bidding are revolting to her.  Though they do leave the island to gather new souls for their Queen.  In truth, she longs for a great Paladin or Cleric to come to destroy her to end her endless torment. Sadly, for her, those were outlawed. 

For the Darklord Connections (p. 44) we have the following:  1: An adventurer reminds the Darklord of their bond, desire or loved one.  OR in this case as the clerics Johan or his granddaughter Celene.  Darlessa is convinced that only Celene would be able to free her. 

Genres of Horror

This Domain is pure Dark Fantasy with bits of Gothic Horror and Psychological Horror. It should feel like a D&D world (Mystara in particular) in the movie Groundhog's Day.  The same day repeats over and over in an endless cycle. It is Dark Fantasy with the trappings of Gothic Horror.  The castle is haunted, but not by ghosts, but by memories.  Psychological horror comes from the "Repeat" and not knowing who is on repeat or not.  Also, how does one get out of it all?

Arevenir
Domain of the Vampire Queen

Darklord: Queen Darlessa
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Gothic Horror
Hallmarks: Undead ruler, same day repeats over and over.
Mist Talismans: Invitation to the Royal Court, a book of beginner spells from the School of Magic, a single candle.

Arevenir is a depressing domain consisting of a small island, a castle on the island and the surrounding village.  The locals are glum and speak no language the characters will understand right away.  The populace will claim the woods nearby are haunted with evil fae creatures and wolves with eyes that glow with balefire. 

The castle offers a respite from the cold, uninviting village. Inside the events of the same night play over and over again. The PCs will find they are trapped inside with no hope of escape except from the evil Queen herself and her warlock acolytes.

To escape they have to find the proper talisman. 

--

I am sure I can develop more if needed. But this is a good start.  With this setup the PCs do not need to fight Darlessa at all. So while I have stats for her I don't need stats for her.  Even if they did like everything else in the castle she would just return the next day. 

What I want here is a land influenced by the French and Italian horror of the mid 1970s.  Similar to the most recent October Horror Movie marathon I just did where I focused on Pre-Exorcist European Horror.

It would be fun little diversion. 

Now if I were making a new Domain for players well I get more player input.  Every successful horror game I have ever run has had one thing in common; Player's buy-in.  They have to want to play it in order to make it work out fine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set

Swords & Wizardry Boxed set
Is it really June 1st??  Spent my Memorial Day weekend the same way I always do; grilling a bunch of food and spending all my time helping my wife in her garden.  So far we have 61 tomato plants in, 3 tomatillos, 74 peppers ranging from sweet to "Satan's Kiss,"  untold numbers of onions, potatoes, celery, squash and I have no idea what else.  Sadly we ended up losing all of our okra plants due to a late-season frost.

But today is a new month and that means a new character.  Although today's character is not new, per se, it is new since this is the first time I have presented this character before she became a Vampire.

The Game: Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set

I got my Swords & Wizardry Boxed set in the mail over the weekend from the Kickstarter.  It is a great-looking set and I want to spend some more time with it.  Getting a set of dice inside was a nice touch.  The books are top-notch really. Though I fear that my old-school itch is now being scratched by Old-School Essentials. Still, my oldest saw my set and admired it so maybe he will do some running with it.

There is a lot to like about it.

Old School Boxed sets

The Character: Darlessa

Long-time readers know of my love for the various "Vampire Queen" adventures out there and my own history with them.   Darlessa is one of the Vampire Queens I most often use.  She has a nice personal history with me and my characters and she is 100% OGC so others can use her too.

I am going to be using her in another project very soon, so I thought it might be nice to talk about her today before she became a Vampire.  Since I have this new rule system here that mimics the oldest RPG in our hobby, I thought it might be nice to go back and see her as a human witch. Right before her humiliating betrayal and her seeking out her demonic patron to turn her into a vampire.

Darlessa as a human witch
Darlessa

Chaotic Female Human Witch, 13th level

Strength: 10
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 18

Saving Throw: 5
Hit Points: 43
AC: 1

Occult Powers

Familiar (Raven)
Evil’s Touch
Devil’s Tongue

Spells by Level

1st (4): Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Minor Curse, Read Languages
2nd (4): Agony, Bewitch II, Enthrall, Rite of Remote Seeing
3rd (3): Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Danse Macabre, Toad Mind
4th (3): Arcane Eye, Bewitch IV, Phantom Lacerations
5th (2): Death Curse, Greater Command
6th (2): Death Blade
7th (1): Wave of Mutilation

Magic Items

Bracers of defense, ring of protection, ring spell storing.

Background

Darlessa always fancied herself as a Queen, which of course is impossible because she is from Glantri. She might have been an upstart Princess if fate had been kinder to her, but instead, the only magic she learned was witchcraft, a "lesser" form of magic to the Glantri ruling class.  Rejected by those she considered her peers and laughed at by those she considered underlings it was no surprise that she turned to evil.  She married a minor noble and soon had him murdered.  She moved up in social status by marrying one of the lesser Princes.  She could not kill him as easily so she had him locked away due to madness, which she of course caused.  She was always vying for more and more power, a better position in the social hierarchy. While she felt she was in control of her situation and had everyone else figured out in truth all the nobility saw through her ruse and were just toying with her.  When discovered this and was laughed out of court she sought out her demon to turn her into a vampire.

Darlessa, S&W character sheet

That is the sad tale of Darlessa. One of jealousy, anger, and hubris.  What happens to her next?  Tune in tomorrow and see!

Monday, April 26, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: V is for Vampire

Image by Rondell Melling from Pixabay
As of this writing, I have 292 monsters written and complete for the Basic Bestiary I.  I have about 10-12 more that are mostly done.  Of the total 355 entries I have, a full 43 of them are Vampires

Yeah. That's a lot.

I have said it before but long before I was known as "the Witch guy" I was known as "the Vampire guy." 

I have talked about my origins of the Basic Bestiary before. My love of Greek, Norse, and Celtic myth, old "monster movies" with my dad, and the day I picked up the AD&D Monster Manual for the first time.  BB is my love letter to the MM.  But it is not my first monster book, it is just the first one I am going to publish.  I have sitting on my hard drives monster books that go all the way back to my earliest days.  Some of these monsters have been revived in my various witch books.  Many have been posted here. Among the files I have here and there there is one that is really old. 

File "necro.txt" contains all the undead monsters I hand-typed from the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II plus all the undead I could get from Dragon magazine and all the ones I made up.  There are over 150 creatures in that file.  Many of them are vampires.

Now the issue I have now is not whether to stat up all these creatures (I already have in some places) but how many to include as full monster entries and which ones are just AKAs.

So instead of posting a monster today (I did Vampires in the 2015 A to Z) I thought I might instead post the list of possible ones and see how I might combine, rearrange or otherwise categorize.

When I talked about the Undine on Saturday I mentioned large categories. Vampires will be a category in BB1.

Vampires

Vampires are among the most fearsome and feared of the undead.  Unlike most undead creatures the vampire can often pass for a living creature. Moreso they charming, both in terms of personality and in magical ability, they are physically strong (19+) and difficult to kill. Vampires exist for a long time so many are also quite intelligent (16+) and have mundane and supernatural protections in place.

As undead, the vampire has all the following features of a corporeal undead creature.  They do not need to check for morale and are immune to fear effects from spells or other creatures.  They are susceptible to the Turning effects of clerics or other holy warriors.  They are immune to the effects of  Charm, Sleep and Hold spells or other mind-affecting magic.

Vampires take 1d6+1 hit points of damage from Holy Water and it is treated as though it were acid. As corporeal undead slashing and piercing damage of weapons are largely ineffective since their damage is done to vital organs or blood loss. Vampires take no damage from mundane weapons.  Silvered piercing or slashing weapons only do 1 hp per hit. Magic weapons calculate damage per normal.  Vampires only take half damage from electrical or cold attacks. They are immune to paralysis, poison or any gas-based weapon. 

Most vampires drain blood to survive. This is done at the rate of 2 Constitution points per attack unless otherwise stated.  Vampires also regenerate 3 hp per round.

Many vampires have alternate shapes they can assume. Most common are animals of the night and gaseous forms. Others may become moonlight or stranger things. All vampires need to rest at some point.  Many are vulnerable to the light of the sun and all have at least some sunlight weakness.  VAmpires also have common items that will repel them, such as garlic, a mirror, or rice, and nearly all will be forced back by holy symbols. 

All vampires have a unique means to kill them these are detailed in each entry. Often this is what sets one type of vampire from the other.

Unless otherwise noted, all Vampires turn as Vampires.

Vampire (Base)
Vampire Lord
Vampire, Alp
Vampire, Anananngel
Vampire, Asanbosam
Vampire, Astral
Vampire, Aswang
Vampire, Berbalang
Vampire, Blautsauger
Vampire, Brukulaco
Vampire, Bruxsa
Vampire, Burcolakas
Vampire, Ch’ing-Shih
Vampire, Children of Twilight
Vampire, Dearg-Due
Vampire, Ekimmu
Vampire, Eretica and here
Vampire, Estrie
Vampire, Farkaskoldus
Vampire, Gierach
Vampire, Hsi-Hsue-Kue
Vampire, Jigarkhwar
Vampire, Kathakano (Catacano)
Vampire, Krvopijac
Vampire, Kyuuketsuki
Vampire, Lobishumen
Vampire, Moroi (Living Vampire)
Vampire, Mulo
Vampire, Neuntöter
Vampire, Nosferatu
Vampire, Ovegua
Vampire, Pĕnanggalan
Vampire, Rolang, Demonic
Vampire, Rolang, Personal

Vampire, Soucouyant
Vampire, Spawn
Vampire, Strigoi
Vampire, Tenatz
Vampire, Upierczi
Vampire, Vrykolakas (Burcolakas)
Vampire, Wurdalak (Vourdalak, Vlkodlak)
Vampire, Xiāng-shī
Vampire, Yara-ma-yha-who
Vampire, Zburător (Zemu, Zmeu)

--

And there you go! Clicking on the links above is like doing archeology into my ever-changing and adapting stat-block.

I did include some AKAs in the list above and those will likely just be a paragraph in the main entry of what makes them different.  AS I work the remaining monster up I am likely to discover more.

This list though makes me wonder if I need yet another Basic Bestiary just for the undead. I know I have enough.  But will it make my first book too light?

Here is where I am at right now.  Aberration (0), Beast (24), Celestial (9), Construct (12), Dragon (5), Elemental (7), Fey (73), Fiend (0), Giant (4), Humanoid (45), Monstrosity (8), Ooze (0), Plant (3), Undead (71), Vermin (0), Total (261).

Removing the 71 undead would make the book stand at 190 monsters right now.  I still have to add all those vampires, so 120+ undead creatures total?  Would make for smaller books, and thus cheaper ones. Fiends are already going into their own book, Basic Bestiary II.

What do you all think?

April 2021 A to Z


Friday, January 15, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Another favorite game that came out of the Old-school push was Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  A game that took us back to the pulp-fantasy roots of the RPG hobby. 

The Game: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I am very, very fond of this game. There is just so much potential here that I become overwhelmed with ideas.  Do I want to do the dawn-time of humanity when the Old Ones have left the Earth?  Do I want to do an older, colder Earth of the far future under a dying sun?  Or just smoosh it into my current games? I want to do it all, to be honest!!

I have mentioned in the past that I see AS&SH as a good combination of B/X and AD&D rules.  Essentially it is what we were playing back in the early 80s.  Where I grew up it was not uncommon to come to a game where people would have an AD&D Monster Manual, a Holmes Basic book, and a Cook/Marsh Expert Book.  The rules we played by were also an equally eclectic mix.

AS&SH is like that. It favors the AD&D side more, but there are enough B/X influences that I smile to myself when I see them.

For me, it is another example of striking the perfect balance between B/X D&D and AD&D1.  This one leans more towards the AD&D side of the spectrum, but the power level, the grit, the overall vibe is far more B/X.  THEN you add in material from Lovecraft, Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith? Well, that is the perfect icing on the cake really.

Of course, it is nearly perfect out of the box, but it can also lend itself to so much more than what is given us to use between the covers.  I have run Zothique games and Pellucidar style ones as well where all of Hyperborea was either one continent in the far future or underground, inside hollow earth (respectively).

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

The Character: Xaltana

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has its own witch class and it really is quite excellent.

Ok, admittedly this one is a bit of a cheat since she is not only not my character, she is a pastiche of other characters.  Xaltana appears in the adventure HS4 The Lost Caverns of Acheron which I talk about here.  She is an evil witch/vampire lord found in the central part of the adventure.  She combines various characters including Drelzna and Iggwilv as well as any number of evil witch and evil vampire type characters found in Conan.  In the adventure, her stats are for 3.x edition. AS&SH is a much better fit for her really.

While I have a number of other Witch-y Vampire Queens, this one is a bit different in that she is designed to be a one and done sort of bud guy.

Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Female Witch, 12th level, Chaotic Evil

Race: Human(Common, but could be Hyperborean) Vampire 
Secondary Skill: Scribe

Abilities
Strength: 16
Dexterity: 20
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 20

Casting Ability: 12
Fighting Ability: 5

Hit Points:  36
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC: 5 

Powers
1st level: Brew Potions, Familiar
3rd level: Brew Philtre
5th level: Dance of Beguilement, Effigy
7th level: Animate Broom
9th level: Witch's Apprentice

Vampire Powers

Spells
First: (5) Burning Hands, Charm Person, Locate the Dead, Shocking Grasp, Sleep
Second: (5) Cause Blindness, Ghoul Touch, Hold Person, Infernal Tongues, Ray of Enfeeblement
Third: (4) Black Cloud, Explosive Runes, Phantasm, Witch Fire
Fourth: (4) Black Tentacles, Charm Monster, Mirror Mirror, Sorcerer Eye
Fifth: (3) Control Winds, Magic Jar, Sleep Everlasting
Sixth: (2) Disintegrate, See

Magic Items
Bracers AC1


Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Female Witch, Malefic Tradition 13th level, Chaotic

Abilities
Strength: 16
Dexterity: 20
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 20

Hit Points: 29
AC: 1 (Bracers)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Bat
7th level:  
13th level: 

Spells 
Cantrips: Alarm Ward, Black Flame, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open
First: Cause Fear, Everlasting Candle, Ghostly Slashing, Increase Sex Appeal, Minor Curse
Second: Bewitch II, Burning Gaze, Enthrall, Evil Eye
Third: Feral Spirit, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Tongues
Fourth: Dance Macabre, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations
Fifth: Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting
Sixth: Death Blade, Mass Agony
Seventh:  Wave of Mutilation

Magic Items
Bracers AC 1

Both versions are good. I might rethink my plan to make her a one-shot villain!

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.


Monday, November 16, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Daughters of Iggwilv

image of Drelnza holding Daoud's Lantern
It's Tasha's Week of Everything this week here at the Other Side.  So I thought I'd start Monstrous Mondays with a monster that has been suggested to me over the years.

Today's monster comes from a variety of sources. First, there is Iggwilv-Louhi connection that I talked about it in the Finish Mythos.  Louhi, despite being an old witch is said to have lovely maiden daughters that the heroes often seek out.  By extension shouldn't Iggwilv have some daughters too?

If we go with "yes" (and I always go with yes) then there are two issues, what are they like and who is the father.  Let's go with the father question first.  Among the candidates of "people" she has been involved with include the Demon Prince Fraz-Urb'luu, the half-demon Arch-Mage Tsojcanth, the wizard Zagig Yragerne, even Mordenkainen himself is a possibility and of course the Demon Prince Graz'zt.

We know all about Iggwilv's love affair with Graz'zt.  We know from other sources, chiefly the Gygax Greyhawk novels, that Iuz is the offspring of Iggwilv and Graz'zt.  Or maybe not. In the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting entry for Iuz it is suggested that he is "some by-blow of Orcus."  I personally liked the idea that Orcus had mortal agents in the world.  While this idea was later dropped it became an element of the Forgotten Realms, where I think it works out a little better.  But it still is a tantalizing idea.  

While Louhi might have daughters known as "the Maidens of Pohjola" I am not expecting Iggwilv's daughters to be so innocent. Her only other daughter, Drelnza, was a vampire, described as a "false Disney Princess" (she is not the damsel in distress, she is the monster), and most certainly not the offspring of Graz'zt.  Going back to the Louhi/Lovitar connection for a bit, Lovitar is known as the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Nine is a good number.

Iggwilv taken to Orcus
I think I have something.

When Iggwilv was defeated by Graz'zt the former master was now the slave.  Graz'zt had intended to keep the fallen Witch Queen in the Abyss to have her suffer an eternity of imprisonment as she had kept him.  Iggwilv however was more clever than the Demon Prince knew and soon she went from prisoner to consort, to confidant to his main advisor.  While she was rising in the ranks of Graz'zt courts she was "traded" to the Demon Prince Orcus over a loss Graz'zt had suffered at the hands of the Demon Prince of undead.  

Taken from Azzagrat in chains she arrived in Thanatos at the feet of the Lord of Undead to serve a tredecim (13 years) of service between CY 503 and CY 516.

Enraged, Iggwilv plotted revenge on both Graz'zt and Orcus.  Her carefully constructed lies and seductions learned from Fraz-Urb'luu that were so effective on Graz'zt held no sway on Orcus. Save for the occasional bit of violence Orcus showed no interest in the Witch Queen other than to deprive Graz'zt of her.  Within that century though Iggwilv gave birth to nine daughters that she was able to keep secret from both Orcus and Graz'zt.  These nine daughters were all of the same fierce, dark beauty as their mother, but had the taint of undeath like their father.  In secret, Iggwilv taught her daughters the ways of witchcraft and fashioned Abyssal weapons for each of them.  Once they were grown their curse of undeath took hold and they became something akin to vampires. Iggwilv sent them into the world to cause as much havoc and chaos as they could and, most importantly act against the designs and will of both Graz'zt and Orcus.

Noidan Tytär
Noidan Tytär
Medium Undead (Demonic)
Frequency: Unique (only 9 are known to exist)
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment:
Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
  Fly: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: -4 [20]
Hit Dice: 14d8+42**** (105 hp)
Attacks: by special weapon, claw/claw, or by magic or special
Damage: 1d10+6, 1d4+4 x2, special
Special: Magic required to hit (+2 or better), Vampire abilities, Witch spells, Undead
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 14
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class:
Special, see below
XP: 5,150

The Noidan Tytär, or Daughters of the Witch, are a unique group of undead demonically spawned creatures.  These creatures, as beautiful as they are powerful, evil and deadly, are thankfully very, very rare. In fact, only nine are known to exist.  Thankfully they also never work together by order of their mother the Witch Queen. 

Each of the Noidan Tytär is a skilled fighter and possesses both superior arms and armor. Typically magical plate mail of etherealness +2, and a bastard vorpal sword +2 that they wield with one hand due to their preternatural strength. 

In addition to their fighting ability, the Noidan Tytär are also undead akin to vampires. Magic is required to hit them and they are immune to charm, hold and sleep magic as well as any mind-affecting magics. Unlike vampires, they do not require blood to survive but drain the life energy (Constitution points) at the rate of 2 points per touch.  They can go long periods without feeding but it will cause them to go into a deep stupor until a victim can be found.  They can not enter a personal dwelling or holy/blessed land like a vampire and holy items can keep them at bay and cause damage.  They are however immune to the effects of garlic. A stake through the heart will destroy them, but if the stake is removed they will reform in one round.  They can become gaseous, but cannot assume the shapes of animals.  They can fly as per the spell.

They can be Turned as Special (14 HD) by a cleric of high enough level. Any result of a D only discorporates them until the next new moon.  The only way to truly destroy them is stake them, remove their head, and burn both the body and head in separate pyres.  An exorcism or cleanse spell must then be used to force their spirits back to the Abyss. 

Additionally, each Noidan Tytär can cast spells as a 7th level witch of the Mara Tradition. 

The Noidan Tytär are often used as mercenaries for powerful chaotic rulers, demon lords, and evil cults. Secretly they work to undo the efforts of Graz'zt and Orcus.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: Halloween Theme, Part 2

Part 2 of my Halloween-themed Kickstarter round up.  Today I have mostly some comics. 

Brian Pulido's Newest: Hellwitch: Sacrilegious #1!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brianpulido/brian-pulidos-newest-hellwitch-sacrilegious-1?ref=theotherside

Brian Pulido has assembled an all start group of comics writers, illustrators, and colorists to bring the latest in his Hellwitch Saga.  I have picked up a couple of these over the years, but have been looking to complete my collection.  This looks like a good way to do it. 

This is the same talent that brought us Lady Death. I will admit I have used more than a few things from these comics in my own versions of Hell for my games. 

Stake Presents: Jessamy #1


If vampires are more your speed then might I suggest meeting Jessamy from the world of Stake.

David A Byrne has also brought us an A-Level team for this comic.   I know less about it, but the art is fantastic. 


Looking forward to reading more on this one too.

And finally!

Elvira's New Comic Book Quarantine Special!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dynamiteent/elviras-new-comic-book-quarantine-special?ref=theotherside

Do I really need to remind everyone here how much I love Elvira? No? Good.

It's Elvira. She has a comic from Dynamite Entertainment. That's all I need!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: La Fille de Dracula (1972)

While watching Vampire Ecstacy I recalled there were a lot of similarities to this movie.  I ordered it then and thanks to Prime got it this morning.   

I watched this one back in 2013 but the copy I had was a really terrible VHS to DVD transfer.  

There is no comparison between the two.  After watching the BluRay I might pop in my DVD just to see if there are a lot of differences.   This one is in French with English subtitles. 

One thing I didn't cover with my last watching was the Karlstein/Karnstein issue.  The castle is called Castle Karlstein but given the time when it was filmed, I can't imagine they didn't mean Karnstien as in Carmilla. 

The story fits the Karnsteins better than the Draculas any way.

Britt Nichols plays Luisa Karlstein and Anne Libert plays Karine, Luisa's cousin, and lover.  And of course, Franco appears playing a creepy dude.  I mean if you are going to cast yourself in a role you should get your choice right?  

Throughout the movie women are attacked and drained of blood.

Luisa returns home to her dying mother and learns the family secret. Their ancestor, Count Karlstein, was a vampire and mom has been keeping him in the crypt.  Luisa goes to the crypt wakes up great-granddad.  Next time we see her she has fangs and begins to seduce her cousin Karine.  Though from the looks of it, Karine is a willing convert. 

There are some issues with this movie.  Luisa and Karine in their first scene act like they have just met, but later on, Karine tells Luisa about how she always loved her and they were "best friends" growing up.  They even relate a scene where Luisa plucked the eyes out of a bird and Karine cried in her arms. 

And the movie goes downhill, or rather, nowhere from there.  In fact the Luisa/Karine story seems completely disconnected from the Vampire killing plot.  If you assume that it was Luisa doing it then she was a vampire before she encountered the count (and it was the actress, if not the character). If it is the count doing the killings then what exactly is Luisa doing in the movie? Other than to lay in bed with Karine all day.

I learned while doing some preliminary research on this before tonight that this movie is part of a loose trilogy from Franco.  Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (1972) features Howard Vernon as Dracula, the same role he is playing in Daughter of Dracula.   It occurs before this movie.  Daughter is followed by The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973).  This movie also has  Britt Nichols and Anne Libert, though in different roles than in this one. The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein is also the film debut of frequent Franco star Lina Romay. She would go on to appear in 100 of his movies and they eventually married in 2008, four years before her death. They had been a couple though for 40 years. I forget which DVD commentary it was on, but Franco, in his 80s, still spoke of her very warmly and lovingly.  He would later go on to die a year after.

I think at this point I am a little burned out on Franco. I have another one for the weekend, also with Britt Nichols and Anne Libert, playing sisters this time instead of cousins.  I might save them for another year, but likely not. 

My original, bad VHS to DVD edit, ran 78 mins, the BluRay is 82 mins. The BluRay also has an edited "clean" version.

Watched: 39
New: 26

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
How about this. I have seen a few movies about Dracula's family and a few more about the Karnsteins and their family.  I have done some work on witch families. What about two warring families who patriarch/matriarchs are both ancient and powerful vampires. The descendants can be living, but living under a curse that when they die they become the undead.  The two family leaders have some sort of relation; say like cousins or half-siblings.  A good example would be the historical Dracula and Bathory clans. They shared a relationship by blood and other ties. Or the literary one of Dracula and the Karnsteins; we know that Stoker was a fan of Le Fanu's work and in the Hammer Karnsteins, Dracula is often in the background.

The war between rival families of vampires might sound a little World of Darkness, but it is something that could work well for both an Old-School game and Night Shift. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Vampire Ecstasy (1973-4)

Ok. So I have been working my way through the world of European horror and focusing on the era right before The Exorcist, in particular, 1969 to 1973 with 1972 as my sweet spot.  Any search in this time period for "Occult", "Vampire", "Witch", or "Coven" is going to pull up some questionable material.  It is also going to pull up the same few titles over and over.  This one classifies as "all the above."

I have seen this one before. But the copy I saw then was so edited and cut that it didn't make any sense.  I am half-tempted to consider this a "New" showing.

Vampire Ecstasy (1973-4)

I started my research on this one back in September. It is called, in various versions, languages and edits: Vampire Ecstasy, Der Fluch der Schwarzen Schwestern (the curse of the black sisters), the Devil's Playthings,  the Veil of Blood, Le château des messes noires, Schloss der schwarzen Hexen (Castle of the Black Witches), Sexorgien der schwarzen Hexen (Sex orgy of the Black Witches) and more. It was written and directed by Joseph W. Sarno, who was somewhat notorious back then. 

The movie comes in a wide variety of edits and run times. The edits range from a PG-13/R version to NC-17 (or would be NC-17 these days) to a soft X. The version on most Internet channels (like Tubi) seem to be the NC-17 version.  The BluRay is impossible to find, but I did pick it up on DVD with another Sarno movie.  It was worth it just for the audio commentary. 

It was a joint German-Swedish production with most of the actresses coming from Germany. Notable though was Marie Forså, who was Swedish. All the actors and actresses had to be able to speak English though. There also seems to be a bit of controversy about when it was filmed.  Many dates say 1974, others say 1973.  The issue might be due to the fact that new star Marie Forså was either 17 or 18 at the time of filming. Some commentary I have read even puts her as young as 16.  True the age of consent in Germany is 14 and 15 in Sweden. But still, it seems a bit, squicky.  But I digress.

The plot of this one is razor-thin.  A 17th century Countess, Danielle Vaga, was burned at the stake accused of vampirism and witchcraft. She was sort of a Countess Bathory rip-off/homage.  Her spirit lives on in her followers who still reside in her castle. The offspring of the Countess shows up at the castle, dark-haired Monica (Ulrike Butz) and blonde Helga (Marie Forså). With Monica is their cousin Iris played by Flavia Keyt and these two are obviously having sex, but it is not the only incest happening here.

Also arriving later are Dr. Julia Malenkow (Anke Syring) and her brother Peter (Nico Wolf). They are the descendants of the witch hunter that killed Countess Vaga.  Dr. Malenkow is an expert on local superstitions (so she is Julia Malenkow, Ph.D. thank you very much) and she wants fuck her brother.

Nadia Henkowa plays Wanda, the leader of the cult. She brought an air of authenticity to the role with her severe look and actually a rather great accent.  she has invited Monica and Helga to the reading of their grandmother's will.  If they can stay in the castle they get it and all the wealth.  But of course the "Black Sisters" are going to use their magic to tempt them into acts of lust.  Not just for the fun of it though, they need a living host for the soul of Countess Vaga. 

So we get an hour or so of people having sex with each other. And according to the DVD commentary that was also happening behind the scenes as well.  At one point the producer tells us they could not find Forså because she was always in someone else's room.  It was the 70s. 

Eventually, the spirit of Vaga takes over the body of Monica and Helga is turned into a mindless sex toy. Vaga tries to get Julia to become the willing sacrifice on the stake, or she will make Helga do it instead.  Julia agrees, but stakes Vaga/Monica instead.  Everyone comes out of their trances now that the Vampire Countess is truly dead.

So. It would be easy to dismiss this as just another in a long, long line of European sexploitation movies with a vampire fetish.  But damn if Sarno doesn't actually have an eye for talent (the actresses, especially Forså can actually act) and he has a good eye for cinematography.  The castle they use in Bavaria is an authentic 17th-century one and they paid rent to the Baron to use it. The dungeon scenes were shot in the actual dungeon.  

The filming was also a bit tragic. Anke Syring had to leave the set for a bit because her mother and father had been killed. The producer was driving back on the last day of shooting and was in a terrible accident, but he survived.  One of the coven sisters played by Claudia Fielers would later commit suicide. 

The movie has very little blood and no gore in it.  There is a solid 70s occult vibe to it.

I think Sarno had ideas and vision, I don't know if he didn't know how to pull them off, or was happy with what he was doing.  I know, thanks to the DVD commentary, that the Producer, Chris D. Nebe was pleased. 


Watched: 36
New: 24



NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
It might have been stated before, but really powerful vampires can come back from the death beyond undeath. While guys like Dracula seem to come back in their own bodies, female vampires seem to need a willing, or semi-willing, host.  Not sure why they should be, but it is also something we see in the "Daughters of Darkness" and Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy. 

What I am going to do then is this.  After I run my War of the Witch Queens campaign I will run a Night Shift game. During the War, the players are likely to meet up with Darlessa the Vampire Queen, and hopefully, defeat her.   Later I will run a Night Shift game where her direct descendant will be cursed with the spirit of Darlessa.  Hopefully, it would be the same players.   

The trick here is how to stat her. In the War of the Witch Queens she is a 13th level witch. But here she should be weaker (a nod, no matter how silly, to the movies).  I am thinking of making the NPC human a vampire spawn under control of the spirit of Darlessa; she is also Darlessa.  Confused? Well it's basically a Scooby-Doo plot. 

If I get this worked up I will certainly need my mini of Darlessa. 

Vampire Queen Darlessa


Thursday, October 15, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Night of the Devils (1972) and Vamps (2017)

I swear with all the Italian horror Giallo movies from the 70s I have seen I should be able to speak Italian. 

Night of the Devils (1972)
A man stumbles and faints in the countryside.
Next, see him hooked up to a bunch of machines in a hospital setting. We assume the images we see of torture and murder are all going on in his mind.  The doctor working on him makes the claim that the patient has no memory of his previous days and no ID.

A woman claiming to know him shows up, but this only sends him into a panic. We later see in flashback what happened.  

Nicola (the man) crashes his car while avoiding hitting a woman (Sdenka, from above) but when he looks she is nowhere to be seen.  We see some locals burying a body (later we learn it was the old man's brother). They are acting like the person needed to be killed. Nicola finds the home of the locals along with Sdenka (played by the lovely Agostina Belli) and they reluctantly take him in for the night. The locals are very rustic, Sdenka even mentions she has never seen a television. 

We soon discover that the family is under a witch's curse. They will become undead after they die.  Said witch is later seen running in the dark and digs up the idol from the dead brother's grave. 

The movie is actually fairly good. Tension is built, there is a lot of mystery with this creepy family. The vampire decay is also pretty cool for 1972.  

Like "Black Sabbath" this movie is based on the Tolstoy novella, The Family of the Vourdalak. Doing a little reading led me to my next film.

Vamps (2017)
Also, known as "Ghouls," but more importantly, "Vurdalaki"

The copy I had access too (Amazon Prime) was originally in Russian and then dubbed and subtitled.  It looked slick but I kept feeling that the voice actors were not doing their characters justice really.

This one deals with the Moyori, or a race of half-human/half-vampires and the six clans of vampires. So a little of Dracula meets Vampire the Masquerade or Vampire Dark Ages. 

Like the original, this one has vampires coming back from the dead to haunt their own families and draw them out for feeding.

Our story focuses around Milena (played by Aglaya Shilovskaya) she is target of affection by both our hero Andrey (Konstantin Kryukov who looks like a young Lindsey Buckingham) and our Vampire Lord who needs her Moyori blood to become a day walking vampire. 

The movie's biggest issue though is the pacing. It is just so slow in places. But it is a good looking movie all the same. 

Watched: 27
New: 17

NIGHT SHIFT content
I did the Vourdalak, or rather, Wurdalak a while back as a vampire that is formed under a witch's curse. I made stats for both OSR games and Ghosts of Albion.  So one for NIGHT SHIFT is certainly in order.

Vourdalak
The Vourdalak or Wurdalak is created by a family curse.  Typically one laid down by a powerful witch on an entire line. When a member dies they will return as a vourdalak to feed on members of their own family.  Sometimes a vourdalak will also spontaneously arise when a member of the family disgraces their family name or when a member (typically a daughter) goes against the wishes of a recently deceased member (such as her father or uncle).

Vourdalak, Master
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 2
Move: 40ft.
Hit Dice: 9
Special: 4 attacks (claw, bite, 2 weapon), vampire abilities (Feed on Blood, Immune to Normal Damage, Mind Control, Regenerate, Repulsed by Holy Items, Spawn, Strong and Fast), Vampire Vulnerabilities (Stake Throw the Heart, Holy Water, Cannot Polymorph)
XP VALUE: 1,400

This is usually the one cursed by the witch and the one that will turn all the other family members.

Vourdalak, Spawn
No. Appearing: 1-6
AC: 6
Move: 30ft.
Hit Dice: 5
Special: 2 attacks (claws, bite), Cannot mind control. Cannot Polymorph. Cannot create new vampires.
XP VALUE: 200 

These are the other family members. Unlike the Vampire Spawn, these creatures are Strong and Fast.

No Vourdalak can polymorph into animals.

 


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Space Vampires of 1980

Bit of a cheat tonight. But I always want to do a Doctor Who episode.

Doctor Who, State of Decay (1980)

I picked up the Tom Baker Doctor Who, Season 18 Blu-Ray a while back and I wanted to re-watch the episode State of Decay.   It has been a few years since I had seen it, but it was and still is one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who.

The idea of the race of great Vampires as the ancient enemies of the Time Lords is, in my mind a great addition to the vampire lore.  Something that I even added to my games at the time, though obviously from a more fantasy and horror elements.

The episode is 100% Hammer Horror.  I would not have been surprised to hear that the crew stole items from sets of the various BBC horror films and TV shows, in particular, the late 70s Dracula.  We get everything though here. The "Hammer Hamlet" with the scared villagers, the castle with the evil Lords (and Lady), even the warnings "not to go to the castle".

Of course, watching the special effects 40 years later have not aged well, but it is Doctor Who and you can't expect a lot. 

The great vampire reminds me a bit of the Beast from the 10th Doctor's "The Satan Pit" so that is nice bit of continuity.  The Great Vampires come from the "early times" from "even when Rassilon was young."  Easy to see a connection.

The horror elements are light, but still good for Doctor Who episode.

The behind the scenes features of the Blu-Ray are also great.  I guess at the time it caused quite a stir.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Space Vampire (1980)

The year is 2491 and Capt. William "Buck" Rogers is back at Earth from 1987, battling a...well...space vampire.  Ok, so I watched this one when it was new and enjoyed it. But I was 10.  BTW did you know all the episodes of Buck Rogers are free to watch?  The plot is thin really. Buck and Col. Dearing are going on vacation and they stop off at a space station to get Twiki repaired. I do like the idea of a vampire on a space station sadly the vampire here leaves a little to be desired. 
The story borrows heavily from Dracula, with the ship crashing into the station named "Demeter" and one of the passengers is named "Helson" as opposed to "Helsing".
One of the things that bugged about BR:25C is how Col. Dearing went from being a strong character in the pilot movie to such a weak one in later episodes. 
The vampire going after Wilma makes a lot of sense really, even if it is also a little clichéd.  Though it did give Erin Gray a chance to stretch her acting muscles a bit, which is good.

Watching both of these from the same time period is interesting.  BR:25C had better effects, but the story in Doctor Who was better.  I will even go on a limb here and say the acting was better in Who as well.

The real question is not who did the better vampires (Doctor Who) but which sidekick was more annoying, Adric or Twiki?

Watched: 25
New: 15

NIGHT SHIFT and BlackStar Content.
Ever since Doctor Who, Buck Rogers, and Lifeforce I have wanted to do a "Space Vampire."
Even in a later Doctor Who novel they had a vampire couple leave the earth by hitching a ride on a satellite bound for deep space. So I guess it is possible to have any half-crazed idea work.
Not 100% sure how I would do a Space Vampire in NIGHT SHIFT, but I think I owe it to my 10-year-old self to give it a try in BlackStar.




Thursday, October 8, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Malenka / Fangs of the Living Dead (1968, 1969)

I am sure I had seen this one.  But like SO MANY Italian, French and Spanish horror films from the late 60s and early 70s plots, scenes and even whole movies were recycled.  I mean this one even has the same music as "The Night She Rose From the Grave" which I am getting too later and is on the same DVD as this movie.  Though that could even be because of the disk.

This movie has been known as "Malenka", "Fangs of the Living Dead" and "The Vampire's Niece" with various dates between 1968 and 1969.

Anyway, this one features Anita Ekberg, so that is a good reason to check it out.

The movie starts with a nice creepy, "Dracula's Guest", feel to it.  Sylvia Morel (Ekberg) learns she has inherited a fortune, a castle, and a new title.   Julián Ugarte plays the Count, Sylvia's uncle, Count Walbrooke.  Sylvia becomes the Harker stand-in and Walbrooke is Dracula.

I think I was getting this one confused with the Thirst from 1979. But while the beginnings are similar, they become quite different movies. This movie was the obvious prototype for Satan's Slave (also known as Evil Heritage) in 1976 and many Franco movies like A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973).

We learn that Sylvia's grandmother was burned at the stake as a witch and she was able to turn her children into vampires.

The basic story cleaves very, very close to the Dracula tale. So nothing really new here.
Until the end, and there is a neat little twist. It really saved the movie for me.

Kind of a fun little flick really.

Watched: 9
New: 9

NIGHT SHIFT Content

So many of these movies have old cursed families with a suspension of witchcraft and vampirism.  
I think what I need, both for NIGHT SHIFT and maybe even my various witch books is a family of witches, in decay, whose members become vampires after death.  Not all are powerful vampires, some are little more than ghouls really, but a few.  Take notes from the Karnsteins and movies like this.
In some ways the Montblancs in NIGHT SHIFT's "Ordinary World" can cover this. Maybe this is a direction I could take them.  The American Montblancs are an old family, but the European Montblancs are ancient and maybe a little more evil.  Combine this with my Byleth idea from last week.
Maybe that is how I separate them, the American Montblancs are featured in NIGHT SHIFT but the "European" Montblancs would be featured in my Witch books for Basic-era.   I would need to have a map for the run down, but still better than anywhere you have lived, Château Montblanc.